‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Monday, October 07, 2013

This is What I Know

This summer I was asked more than a few times, by people who really care about me, how I could handle the loss of Daniel and the separation from Anya. 'You seem so together...' one young friend said brightly.

I was thinking today about how easy it is to slip on that mask each day - the 'I'm fine!' mask that we all keep close at hand, every hour of every day. I tread a fine line each day between wanting to be positive/inspire/be grateful and the desire to be as utterly honest as is possible. The two don't coexist very well together. And so I find I am either pushing the sorrow to a far, far corner of my mind, mustering every bit of gratitude I can, or I am flooding my conscious mind, and so the world, with the dark sea of despair that my heart often swims in.

Which is right? Which is good and true? How does one find balance between these nagging opposites? And so I equivocate and slide back and forth between the two.

Nastia has been having a really hard time making sense of the world lately. She is finally at an emotional age where she is looking beyond her own experience, and out into the greater world. 

She doesn't like what she sees.

'Mom, why is there so much hate in the world? Why can't people forgive each other and move on?' She asked last night through sobs. She has reason to mourn.  She's experienced more loss than anyone I know, and she has been given little along the way to prove life can be anything but a string of losses and heartache. She's seen the effects of unforgiveness and hate in our own extended family. It devastates her.

Last night she cried for hours. She cried for her sister, her lost childhood; she cried for the little girl she was and the little girl she never got to be. She grieved for so many things at once, I thought her heart would truly break open from the weight she was carrying. I held her, and listened. I listened as deeply and as gently as I could, side-stepping my own desire to 'fix' her feelings. I let her feel, because in feeling those painful emotions, we also release them. She was purging a well of sorrow she had carried for a long time. She fell asleep, exhausted, at about 4:30am.

Mornings often bring perspective, and so today she was solemn and pensive, but better.

'Mom, I still don't get why the world is so messed up, but at least I always know I have you, and Anya. And Sasha and Grammy.'

I try to share my own perspective without becoming to preachy. I try to tell her that, yes, the world is 'messed up', but also so very beautiful. On bad days, we just have to look harder for the beauty, I tell her. On bad days, we sometimes need to lean on someone else's perspective.

This is what I know, my dear daughter - our world is broken. It is broken in a way I cannot imagine ever being fixed, and yet we are here, now. We live here and there is no honest way to cast off what mantle the world wears at this time. And yet, we must live in the midst of all these terrible truths (millions of children without families to love them, thousands of wars being fought on land and in the hearts of men, exploitation of vulnerable people every single minute of every day, starving millions, indifference to suffering by those who have the power to fix much of it...) while still finding a way to have hope. That is why, I tell her, we trust in a God who loves us and works for our good. He bridges the gap between what is and what should be. He points towards light and hope and complete healing. And when we have bad days, we can lean into Him, and He will delight in holding us up.

I don't have answers for her about why her sister is still so far away. I can't explain how their birthmother could make a choice that would destroy their peace all those years ago. I can't fix any of it, but I can take a step every day towards what is good and right and true, and I can teach her - my beautiful, precious, loved-beyond-words daughter - how to find that same path, and tread it, however slowly, towards all He has waiting for us.


  1. Beautiful photos of a beautiful girl. I am sorry she's so sad, but so glad she has a mama like you.

  2. That is a beautiful photo of Nastia. Even more beautiful is how she is growing into a young adult with eyes and heart open, thinking, feeling, asking, despairing, seeking love and meaning. I don't wish any child to go through hardship, but I do wish we were raising a nation of kids who did all those things--and I'm not sure it is possible without some exposure to the truly hard things in life. She has been redeemed, and praise God for His mercy. May she grow in her own heart and mind as His beloved daughter.

  3. I hope Anya can "look for the helpers," like Mr. Rodgers says. Look at how beautifully you found all these sponsors for the girls. Like, in a day. Done and done! There is beauty that shines through the suffering.

  4. Heart4Russia12:24 PM

    You are giving your daughter a wonderful tool for managing big feelings, and I can't help but notice how far she's come in the years you've been sharing on this blog. It is, honestly, miraculous. Your ability to 'Let go and let God' is remarkable and a great inspiration to me. I love seeing your sweet girl grow into who she was meant to be.


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